We’ve all heard the complaints about “the church today”, haven’t we?
Perhaps we’ve even expressed some of them ourselves.
- “The problem with the church today is no one wants to commit any more.”
- “Today’s problems all come from a church that puts style before substance.”
- “The modern church wants to be fat and happy, they don’t care about anything but themselves.”
- “Our church may be small, but at least we’re preaching the Word, unlike most churches today.”
Those are all direct quotes I’ve collected online in the last few weeks.
None of them are from nonbelievers or average church-goers, of course. They’re all from pastors and other church leaders.
Based on these complaints and so many others like them, I’ve come to three conclusions:
1. No one thinks they’re the problem with the church today
It’s always the other guy’s fault, right?
Very seldom, if ever, do I see quotes like those listed above, followed by serious self-assessment and personal repentance. Oh sure, some of them will throw in the obligatory “search me, oh God…” verse, but the tone of everything is always how bad every other church has become. Or how sinful the community around us has become, as evidenced by the fact that they refuse to throng to our church to hear us complain about them. So we soldier on, convinced we’re the righteous remnant.
Yes, the church has real problems today. But if you’re a Christian – especially if you’re a church leader – complaining about the church without taking a serious look at yourself and your church is like complaining about your reflection in the mirror – and blaming the mirror!
“Them” is US!
In case you’re you’re wondering where my own self-assessment is, this post is just too small for that. It takes a book to even scratch the surface. Literally, a book. Check out The Grasshopper Myth for a lifetime’s worth of “what’s wrong with me?!” self-assessment – and a lot of hope, too.
2. The church has always had these problems
When people complain that today’s church services aren’t as good as they should be, that our worship is often more about entertainment than participation, that the preaching is often shallow, that discipleship is sometimes non-existent… I have to reluctantly agree.
When they long for the days when we did church better than we do it today… I wholeheartedly disagree.
We’ve never done church better than this.
Sure there have been pockets of greatness. There still are today.
And there are always good, healthy churches to be found of all shapes and sizes. I’ve been in a lot of them and I pastor one.
But the less-than-ideal church service is nothing new.
Even the Apostle Paul complained that the church services in Corinth often did “more harm than good.”
In fact, that’s why we have many of the New Testament letters. Paul, John and others wrote long and strong to churches and their leaders about their need to correct the mistakes they were making. Sometimes, the horrific sins they were proud of committing. (Helloooo Corinth!)
Imagine how much shorter the New Testament would be if the early church had been the ideal place we like to imagine.
The problems with the church are nothing new. But in a way, that’s good news. Because, despite 2,000 years of screw-ups, the church keeps moving forward.
It makes me think someone other than us must be in charge of this thing.
3. The doers seldom complain, while the complainers aren’t doing much
There seems to be a direct inverse relationship between those who complain about the state of the church and those who are working to change the state of the church.
The harder they work, the less they complain. While those who complain don’t seem to be doing much to change things. As I said in a previous post, We Can Whine About the New Generation Or We Can Minister to Them – But We Can’t Do Both.
Let’s Do Church Better
So yes, there have always been bad churches and bad church services.
There’s never been a perfect church – or a perfect era of church history.
God is the same as he’s always been. So are people.
Doing the essentials better is all that matters.
And any church, of any size, budget or denomination, can do that.
So what do you think? Can we agree that the answer to bad church is to do better church?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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